CLEVELAND — Browns defensive back Jason McCourty is raising money for a cause that hits close to home.
McCourty will host a comedy show Monday night at Cleveland Improv to raise money for sickle cell disease, an illness that has afflicted multiple members of his extended family, including his father, aunt and uncle.
"It should be a really good time," McCourty said. "I just want to do my part to give back to the community and just be a presence there."
McCourty, who has made an impact both on and off the field since joining the Browns this past spring, created Tackle Sickle Cell with his twin brother, Devin, in 2013 and partnered with the Embrace Kids Foundation, a New Jersey-based non-profit, in the process.
McCourty spoke of his aunt, Winnie, as a inspiration to launch the campaign.
"We grew up very close to my aunt. She suffers from the disease. Just watching her throughout the years of her battles, at this point, she's 67 and she was told that she wouldn't live to see 35," he said. "Right now she has lost vision and she needs oxygen 24/7 so it's definitely a struggle, but she's a fighter."
Sickle cell disease, a condition where there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to supply the body with oxygen, is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, impacting nearly 100,000 people. Roughly one in 500 African Americans and one in 1,400 Hispanics are born with the trait. While there's no cure for most people with sickle cell anemia, treatments can relieve pain and help prevent associated complications.
"In kids, when they find it earlier, they're getting closer and closer to a cure. It's definitely making progress. It is one of those diseases where if you know ahead of time – it's hereditary – so if you know you have either the trait or the disease, just having that awareness can stop you from kind of passing it on," McCourty said.
"I know back when my grandparents both suffered from the trait, they had no clue. Now in today's age, just having that awareness has been huge."
Since launching Tackle Sickle Cell, the pair of NFL standouts (Devin is a Pro Bowl safety for the New England Patriots) have hosted multiple blood drives and fundraisers in their home state of New Jersey and the cities of their NFL teams.
McCourty, who spent his first eight seasons with the Titans, said he's eager to continue the foundation in a new city. "Just looking to have a good time and get some of the guys to come out and raise awareness and raise money," he said.
All proceeds will be donated to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospitals, a longstanding partner of the Cleveland Browns. Individual tickets are $75 and include a pre-show buffet dinner.
The show will be headlined by popular comedians Gary Owen and Guy Torry. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
All details, including how to purchase tickets, can be found at TackleSickleCell.org.